Ashley Pulkkinen, left, helps Ikhlas Hersi, center, and Lydia Dees with a craft project Monday during the national observance of A Day Without Child Care at the YWCA Central Maine in Lewiston. Pulkkinen is an advocate who works with families. Hersi and Dees are enrolled in the child care program. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Maine People’s Alliance and YWCA Central Maine teamed up Monday to observe A Day Without Child Care, a national day of action.

The purpose was to celebrate child care workers and get people in the mindset to demand further federal government support for child care facilities and families who need them.

“This is a national day of action to really draw attention to the fact that the economy doesn’t really exist without child care,” Amanda Hatch, YWCA chief program and impact officer, said.

Participants are pushing for more funding to make child care systems more equitable for racial and gender justice, higher wages for child care providers and affordable and accessible child care for all families.

Some facilities nationally decided to close for the day to raise awareness of struggles they and families face. The YWCA decided rather than closing to host a 2 1/2-hour gathering for families and provided various activities.

Many families who cannot access child care are faced with making tough decisions, Hatch said.


Cyndi Tucci and her 8-year-old son, Sebastian Velilla, make cards Monday during the national observance of A Day Without Child Care at the YWCA in Lewiston. Velilla attends the YWCA child care program before and after school. Tucci said the care allowed her to earn a college degree and work as a special education teacher. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Sometimes families need to decide if their child is old enough to stay home alone after school until a parent returns from work. Others, however, consider having one parent quit working to take care of their children, which disproportionately impacts women, she said.

“That is not a failing on any family’s part that they are feeling squeezed that way; that is a failing of the system and we can and should demand better,” Maine People’s Alliance community organizer Carrie Jadud said. “We have the power to do something better.”

Birdie Gay, the YWCA assistant director for the child care facility, said she was in that same position a couple of years ago after her second child was born. She stayed home a couple of years because child care was not affordable.

Her now 2-year-old daughter is old enough to attend the YWCA child care program, where Gay pays almost full price, she said. Many facilities would offer a space for children of staff for free but she understands that given financial struggles, many facilities have had to walk back that benefit.

Jadud said she would like to see child care treated as infrastructure because it is fundamental to the workforce. It is just as important as roads and buses that take people to work.

The government managed to provide child care for women who entered the workforce during World War II when many men were deployed, she said. The federal government needs to provide more funding for child care, she said.


She said she hopes U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston, will become a child care champion.

Ifrah Assoweh picks up her 8-year-old son, Abdi Hersi, on Monday from the after-school child care program at the YWCA Central Maine in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“So we know it can happen when we decide it needs to,” Jadud said. “I will say we need a lot more investment at the federal level to really make this a sustainable kind of system.”

Though there were a lot of historic investments for child care approved by the government recently, there is still a long way to go, Hatch said, in understanding how vital child care workers are. She called it a “thankless” job sometimes.

There are a lot of requirements facilities must meet and workers have varying levels of education but often they are only viewed as babysitters and do not get as much respect as other people who work with children, such as school teachers, Gay said.

The first five years of a child’s life are important developmentally and child care workers can help support families through those years, she said. There are many other benefits to sending children to child care facilities, such as helping young children better develop verbal skills and help relieve some stress on parents.

“I feel like if people saw it as much like public education, where it’s something that every child or most children will experience, it might get a little more attention and probably be easier to find, too,” Gay said. “… If you don’t have anything, developmentally, from birth to five, you’re not ready. So much of your life is in those years and people in child care can help bolster that within a family.”

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